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Police Officers Successfully Use Gay Dating Apps In Six-Month Drug Probe

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Police Officers Successfully Use Gay Dating Apps In Six-Month Drug Probe

Police in Florida have charged more than 60 people after setting up profiles on gay dating apps as part of a six-month drug probe known as 'Swipe Left for Meth'.

Undercover detectives with Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested 60 people and obtained eight arrest warrants related to the sale and/or possession of illegal narcotics following the investigation, which began in July 2021.

Officers launched the probe after the sheriff's office receive a tip suggesting people were openly selling drugs on the app Grindr, a popular dating app in the LGBTQ+ community.

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Grindr App (Alamy)
Grindr App (Alamy)

In order to catch the sellers, detectives created undercover profiles on the app, after which they found it 'relatively easy to strike up conversations with those who were selling methamphetamine, cocaine, Ecstasy, LSD, Fentanyl, and marijuana in Polk County', according to a press release.

During conversations and resulting undercover drug purchases it became clear to officers that 'the suspects’ primary purposes for being on the dating app were to sell drugs', rather than to find a potential partner. Grindr proved to be the app featuring most drug sales, though transactions also took place on apps Scruff and Taimi.

Polk County sheriff Grady Judd noted that officers have 'known for some time' that criminals will use the internet to 'prey upon children online, or to engage in prostitution', but that the use of dating apps to sell illegal drugs is 'something [police] are seeing more and more of in Polk County'.

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Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd (Polk County Sheriff's Office/Facebook)
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd (Polk County Sheriff's Office/Facebook)

According to WSVN, the sheriff said dealers would use emojis such as the ice cream cone and birthday cake to indicate they were selling drugs, as well as using code words like 'party' and 'Tina', which he said stood for methamphetamine.

Judd commented: 'Suspects are getting more creative, but so are our detectives. We’re working with these mobile app companies to raise awareness, and asking for their cooperation during our investigations. The good news is, we found that some who were on the dating app were reporting illegal drug sales when it became apparent to them, and the mobile app companies were banning some suspects attempting to sell drugs. When we find drug dealers, we put them in jail.'

Police with handcuffs (Pixabay)
Police with handcuffs (Pixabay)
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In a statement to CNN, Bill Shafton, vice president of business and legal affairs for Grindr, stressed that the sale of drugs or any illegal activity is 'strictly prohibited' on Grindr, adding that the moderation team 'works hard every day to ban bad actors while maintaining the privacy and security of our users'.

Detectives filed a total of 159 felony and 72 misdemeanour charges as a result of the investigation, and they plan to continue monitoring social media and dating apps for illegal drug transactions.

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Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: News, Drugs, LGBTQ, US News

Emily Brown
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